Animals > Foxes
In this scene a fox, identifiable by its bushy tail, is being chased as it is making off with a countryman’s sheep, but its chances of escape seem slim as the dogs are closing in. The countryman, in puritanical garb, is brandishing a weapon as if to beat the fox rather than to spear it.
The man, animals and trees are carved in high relief, while the man’s house and general vegetation are incised into the background, a technique often used on 17th- century panels. The wood is pared away so that the background is wafer thin and the incisions sometimes pierce right through. It is a quick and economical way of creating a panel that looks richly carved while keeping the skilful carving to a minimum.
The fox, as today, lived in close proximity to man and was a constant threat to his livelihood, taking domestic sheep, hens, geese and ducks. As the battle to outwit the fox was part of everyday life men felt a grudging admiration for its cunning and resilience, naming it Renard and giving it a literary role to play in the medieval romance Le Roman de Renard.
In art the fox traditionally symbolizes cunning and guile and appears on numerous misericords dressed as a person trying to dupe his fellowmen. He also makes a frequent appearance in La Fontaine’s Fables, some of which occasionally appear in woodcarving.
This late 15th-century English oak panel is reminiscent of Gothic oak tracery panels of the period. It is illustrating the Fox and the Crow from Aesop's Fables. The crow, high in an oak tree, is holding some meat in its beak while the fox is flattering the bird from the ground in the hope that the bird will respond by singing, drop the meat and provide him with his supper.